Ford is jumping into the e-scooter business, plunking down tens of millions of dollars — as much as a hundred million, according to one report — to buy the electric scooter company Spin. Daimler is trying scooters, too. The automakers will compete against rideshare giants Uber and Lyft and early innovators Bird and Lime for a share of what could become a multibillion-dollar scooter business.
"It’s a space that’s grown really rapidly from almost nothing over the past year," said mobility research analyst Sam Abuelsamid of Navigant Consulting.
He said scooters across the United States are now getting almost 250,000 rides a day and bringing in about a million dollars of revenue a day.
Uber and Lyft wanted a piece of that business because it's a natural fit with ride-sharing.
"They’re trying to hit all the different services that can be offered in order to maximize revenue potential from these businesses," Abuelsamid said.
The attraction for automakers, he said, is the holy grail of transportation in the future: autonomous vehicles.
"Looking forward a few years from now as we start to get automated vehicles on the road, we’re going to need a mix of different types transportation options," he said.
Gabe Klein, a transportation consultant who has worked with Spin, the scooter company Ford just purchased, said competitors in the space are playing a long game.
"We’re in inning one right now," he said.
Even with autonomous vehicles on the road, Klein thinks they won’t be the best option for every trip.
"Sixty percent of all trips in urban areas are less than 5 miles," he said. "I think the scooter or the electric bike can fulfill the 1-3 mile trip."
Klein said Ford might have an advantage in this space because it’s a trusted name that’s been around for more than a hundred years, unlike its disruptive competitors.